Post by J. Clarke Post by firstname.lastname@example.org
This is a group for discussing speculative fiction.
Which is fine, but you didn't start out with fictional technology, you
started out with false claims about real technology. This is a
problem that many people who set out to write science fiction have,
they think that becuase it's OK to discuss fictional technology it's
also OK to misrepresent real technology. While it can be ignored if
the story is good enough, such writing generally makes it difficult to
read through the facepalm. If the reader has to grit his teeth and
chant over and over again _must_suspend_disbelief_ then the writer
isn't doing his job.
Marion Zimmer Bradley, paraphrasing J. R. R. Tolkien, used to say
that suspension of disbelief does not mean hanging it by the neck
till it is dead.
OTOH it is permissible in SF to invent a piece of technology that
doesn't [yet?] exist, and let the story play with what the
effects of its introduction would be.
So long as you don't overdo it.
Back in 1998, Dan Goodman reviewed Melissa Scott's _Conceiving
Post by J. Clarke
"....I find it useful to remember a concept proposed by Ellen
Kushner during a panel we were both on at Arisia. She argued
that every novel has a fixed 'strangeness budget,' a finite
number of new or unfamiliar things that readers can absorb and
understand without losing track of the story. Adding too many
ideas purely for the sake of novelty risks overspending that budget.
If there are too many other things going on, or if the 'what if'
itself is very strange, you should probably keep the secondary
ideas and features as recognizable as possible."
My take on this is that one piece of handwavium, one piece of
supertechnical tech whose abilities you don't bother to explain,
is something you can get away with, if you can get away with it
(e.g., your plot hangs on its effects on the world around it,
your characters' behaviors are affected by its existence, etc.).
(Note that "this is something you can get away with, if you can
get away with it" can be applied to other aspects of fiction,
including the writer's skill with words, the number of other
stories with something like the same topic that the reader may
already have read, the believability of the characters, the
necessary length for getting the idea across, und so weiter.)
Mr. Lal's perfect, inescapable lie detector sounds to me like
something he can't get away with.
Dorothy J. Heydt
djheydt at gmail dot com